“I hope I don’t let you down, Dad,” whispered Tyler Fournier to his father as they inched forward in the line to meet President Obama.
Tyler was 13 then. Tyler has Asperger Syndrome.
Ron Fournier’s book, Love That Boy, is a passionate, honest and enlightened account of his struggle to accept and embrace Tyler’s differences — from the boy he hoped for to the gift of the one he has.
As Fournier and Tyler embarked on their series of road trips to bond and afford Tyler “real-world experience to learn how to socialize,” Fournier’s personal mission was “to learn to love my boy for who he was, rather than what I wanted him to be.” As he admits, “The original sin of parenting is the baggage we drag into it.”
The origin the road trips unwittingly began in 2003 when Tyler accompanied Fournier, a departing White House correspondent, to a courtesy visit with President George W. Bush. Fournier was anxious and unsettled that Tyler, then just five years old, would embarrass him in front of Bush. Yet as Fournier poignantly recounts the meeting, “[Tyler] was, in a word, quirky. But the president was enchanted.”
As Fournier and Tyler “were walking out of the Oval Office… Bush grabbed me by the elbow. ‘Love that boy’ he said, holding my eyes. I thought I understood what he meant. I didn’t. It took me years to understand.”
This must-read book shares a story to which all parents and child caregivers should give heed in raising not just an atypical child, but every child.
I first heard about Love That Boy, during NPR’s Scott Simon’s emotional interview with Fournier. Give it a listen. It’s well worth the 9 minutes, 15 seconds. Then read the book.
Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor